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А A is the first letter of the alphabet in every known language, except that of Ethiopia ; its Greek name is Alpha, from the Hebrew Aleph, which is very significant, denoting either an ox or a leader ; each a mark of excellence or priority. The first place is deservedly given to this letter on account of its simplicity, and the ease with which it is pronounced; the first sound uttered by human creatures in their most infantile state, being that by which this letter is expressed.

In the English language, this letter has four different sounds. The broad sound, as in all, wall. The open, as in father, rather.

The slender or close, which is the peculiar u of the English, exemplified in place, face, &c. And the short sound, of which we have instances in hat, cat, fat.

In numerals A denoted 500, and Ā 5,000. In the Italian calendar, A, is the first of the seven dominical letters.

A, as a word, has the following significations: A, an article set before nouns of the singular number; a man, a tree. Before a'word beginning with a vowel, it is written an; as, an ox,

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A, in abbreviations, stands for artium, or arts ; as, A. M. artium magister; or anno; as A. D. anno domini.

In medical prescriptions, this letter with a dash above it, ā, is used for ana, of each.

In music A is the nominal of the sixth note in the diatonic scale: it is also the name of one of the two natural moods.

Abacus, in architecture, the superior member of the capital, to which it serves as a kind of crown. It was originally intended to represent a square tile laid over a basket; and it still retains its original form in the Tuscan, Doric, and Ionic orders ; but in the Corinthian and Composite, its four sides or faces are arched inwards, having some ornament, as a rose or other flower, in the middle.

Abacus, Pythagorean, so denominated from its inventor, Pythagoras; a table of numbers, contrived for readily learning the principles of arithmetic, and was probably what we now call the multiplication table.

Abacus Logisticus is a right angled triangle, whose sides, about the right angle, contain all the numbers from 1 to 60 ; and its area the products of each two of the opposite numbers. This is called a canon of sexagesimals, and is no other than a multiplication table carried to 60 both ways.

ABBE', a french word, literally meaning an abbot. The abbots of France, however, were divided into two classes; and these became so totally different from each other, that the character generally spoken of under the name of abbé, has long ceased to be of any official nature. Its origin must be dated about the middle of the seventeenth century ; empty title,

ABB and, from its institution, which will be seen by referring to the article ABBOT, it is plain, that it was not at first, what it latterly has been, a perfectly

Of the modern abbé, in the confined acceptation of the term, to which the present definition is restricted, it is not easy to give a precise account. It is a nominal abbotship which neither imposes duty, nor conveys emolument, but is valuable on account of the respect in which it is held by society, and the consequent assistance that it affords to advancement in church or state. In short, it is a station in which a man of liberal education and little wealth waits, as it were, for the favours of fortune.

ABBESS, in catholic countries the superior of an abbey of nuns, or of a community or chapter of canonesses. An abbess was formerly elected by her community, but latterly, with scarcely any other exceptions than those of St. Clare, they have been in the royal gift. To preserve, bowever, an appearance of the ancient freedom of choice, the pope's bull, by which they are severally confirmed in their offices, states, that they have been recommended by a letter from their king, and approved of by a majority of the nuns. An abbess exercises all the functions of an abbot, with the exception of those which appertain to his priesthood.

ABBEY. The abbeys of England, as those of Westminster and Bath, are churches which formerly belonged to such houses of monks or nuns as were governed by an abbot or abbess.

At present, an abbey is, in general, the cathedral or episcopal church of the see or diocese in which it stands; and on that account retains the more ancient and

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solemn, but expensive, form of divine worship. The abbey at Westminster still possesses this distinguishing feature, as a collegiate church; and the church of Saint Paul, is the cathedral of the diocese of London.

ABBOT signifies FATHER, and is a corruption of AB; which, in the Hebrew imports, first, a natural father; and, secondly, by figure, a person to whom filial reverence is due. It is easy to perceive, that the custom of calling superiors“ fathers, descended from those early ages of the Jews in which the government of each family was held by its patriarch or parent; but it is somewhat remarkable, that it should have obtained general use among Christians, whom Jesus, alluding to the arrogance with which the Jewish doctors assumed the title, enjoined to call no one on earth their father : because they have but one father, who is in Heaven. • Father, however," notwithstanding this command, is the distinction by which the monks, priests, and bishops of the Roman church bave always been addressed. From ab, ubbu, baba, or pupa (grand or pre-eminent father,) is derived the French pape, and the English pope, the chief of the church; and abba, wbich makes abbé in the French, the superior of a monastery. An abbot was, originally, a plain monk, to whom the care of his monastery was committed. He lived like the other monks, except that he had a separate table for the reception of guests, a duty which was one of the prominent motives for the foundation of monasteries. An abbot has a jurisdiction over priories, and is consequently of higher rank than a prior. He has three sorts of authority: the first


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